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SDP pushes for sexual harassment debate in parliament

The SDP wants a parliamentary debate on sexual harassment, in the wake of the #MeToo campaign. Other parties are unconvinced of the need for a plenary session.

Tuula Haatainen
SDP MP and presidential candidate Tuula Haatainen. Image: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva

Finland's largest parliamentary opposition group, the Social Democrats, are pushing for a debate in parliament on sexual harassment. The move comes in the wake of the international #MeToo campaign, which has brought the issue to international attention by highlighting victim experiences.

"When the whole country is talking about an issue, MPs and parliament can't avoid it," said SDP MP and presidential candidate Tuula Haatainen, who is the first signatory of the motion calling for a #MeToo debate. "Therefore it's time for a parliamentary discussion on sexual harassment and the fight against it."

Haatainen points out that the #MeToo campaign has prompted wide-ranging debate and promises of legislative action in neighbouring Sweden, and the topic has also been debated in the European Parliament.

Stiffer sentences

Other MPs don't quite see the issue the same way. First deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mauri Pekkarinen of the Centre Party, says that sexual harassment is an important topic, but it has been covered in parliamentary question times and in other sittings.

Second deputy Speaker Arto Satonen of the National Coalition says that the Justice Ministry's working group on stiffening sentences for sex crimes is on the case, but does not rule out a debate by MPs.

Female MPs have this autumn talked about their experiences of sexual harassment under the #MeToo hashtag. Haatainen says parliament is not immune to harassment.

"I can't say whether it's improved or gotten worse, but it is present in every workplace," said Haatainen. "It's everywhere and that's why we need to talk about it."

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